Autism Disclosure Not Required if WFH

Rachel Worsley  |  24/08/2023

Autistic employees could avoid having to disclose their diagnosis if they are able to work from home, according to a US commentary. 

By working from home, autistic employees can effectively “self-select into a work environment that itself is an accommodation,” write the researchers Hanna Kalmanovich-Cohen and Steven J. Stanton in the journal Industrial and Organisational Psychology. 

“The key is that they can choose to avoid disclosure and the potential stigma it brings,” they add. 

However, there is a limitation with this approach. If work from home becomes associated with neurodivergence, anyone making the choice to work from home could be immediately perceived as neurodivergent. Another limitation is that people might harbour negative self-esteem from “hiding” their real selves, and miss out on creating community with other like-minded neurodivergent people if they choose not to disclose. 

“In spite of these concerns, the option to work from home gives employees more agency and choice. In general, that alone has the potential for the positive outcomes noted.” 

Working from home also brought other benefits, the researchers say. For example, neurodivergent people have more control over when and how they respond to coworkers, such as muting their chat or email notifications and setting clear boundaries around when interruptions are appropriate. 

Neurodivergent people may also benefit by: 

  • taking a break during certain tasks
  • Operating in an environment with no harsh lighting or noises
  • Accessing screen readers or recordings of important meetings

Communication among remote workers tends to be more formal and less spontaneous in the office. This could help neurodivergent people who would otherwise feel overwhelmed by unpredictable social interactions to find other ways to communicate. 

“For instance individuals who might struggle with direct eye contact might benefit by virtual communication that relies less heavily on visual cues, such as virtual meetings without video,” the researchers write. 

“Additionally, virtual meetings can be recorded, provide closed captions, and also allow note taking for individuals who might need to refer back to the information discussed during the meeting.” 

Read the commentary here. 

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